Saturday, April 26, 2008

Gorilla Round Up

Here's a few Mountain Gorilla related links that have wafted through my inbox recently...

King Kong Lives On
How tourism helps the majestic mountain gorillas of Rwanda and the people who share their habitat
By Julie Davidson

The ultimate patriarch, he eases himself up from buttocks which have flattened their own forest glade and looks at me thoughtfully. On all fours he is the size of a small car. His hands are as big as bolsters, with fingers like black puddings and long, oddly elegant nails. He prods the infant playing between his feet, gives an instructive grunt, and together they join the family. The youngster's mother is nearby, but if she is lost to disease or poachers her child will be raised and protected - defended to the death, if necessary - by his colossal father: King Kong, the man-beast, greatest of the great apes, the beleaguered primate whose identity has evolved over the past century from homicidal monster to gentle giant.

Mobile game to help save embattled gorillas
For mobile users a new mobile game hopes to raise awareness of the plight of the mountain gorilla and funds for their conservation. Silverback takes gamers through eight levels, following the life-span of a gorilla from childhood to adult.
Mountain Gorilla Rally Called Off
CACMS Chairman Surinder Thatthi informed all registered drivers for this year's African Rally Championship that Rwanda Gorilla rally was cancelled out of this year's championship due to lack of available sponsorship.
And for the Western Lowland Gorilla... Ebola Virus Threatens Gorilla With Extinction
If the usual threats of poaching and habitat loss weren't enough, gorillas face the added danger of a deadly disease that has been surging through their ranks.

The highly-infectious Ebola virus has decimated huge swaths of the already diminished western lowland gorilla population.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Kakapos: Pictures of Chicks

Here's a couple of pages at New Zealand's Stuff, with pictures one of the new Kakapo Parrot chicks. The chick is pictured with kakapo technical officer Daryl Eason.

Check the pictures out here and here.
The four female chicks and three males are fed five times a day and kept in a dark, temperature-controlled room.

Though they spend much of their time sleeping, Mr Eason said the chicks' individual personalities were already starting to show and they were all making good progress.

They put on about 40 grams a day, and now weighed about 500g, he said.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Three Gorges Dam - 3D model for Google Earth

There's a fairly simplistic model of the Three Gorges Dam created by SugarSmax up on the Google 3D Warehouse. It can be downloaded into Google Sketchup or Google Earth and viewed from any angle, but it does give a nice idea of how the Chinese landscape has been modified by such a massive construction as this dam.

To aid in your Google Earth navigation, I still HEARTILY recommend the "3Dconnexion SpaceNavigator" from 3DConnexion. It's remarkably affordable, and brings the whole Google Earth experience to life. Lots of fun!

Try flying around the Last Chance To See locations which you'll find in our Another Chance To See KMZ file, and also the Jane Goodall Chimpanzee Google Earth blog which is a very clever use of Google Earth. The Space Navigator brings so much to the whole experience, and it's thoroughly addictive! The device is not just for Google Earth though. It also works with Google Sketchup, Autodesk products, and much more besides. I highly recommend it.

$720 for 720 Mountain Gorillas - Update

Many thanks to Gwen who generously donated $50 to my Mountain Gorilla Fundraiser after seeing the incredible footage of Titus on the PBS special "The Gorilla King" this weekend.

To remind you, since there approximately 720 Mountain Gorillas left in the world, we're trying to raise $720, $1 for every single gorilla up there in the Virunga Mountains.

So please visit our Firstgiving donation page at "720 Dollars for 720 Mountain Gorillas", if you'd like to make a contribution. Proceeds will go to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, a charity of which Douglas Adams was a great supporter and patron.

Anyone can donate, from anywhere in the world, the site is secure, and you can contribute as much or as little as you can afford. $1 will do, as that's one Mountain Gorilla towards our target!

Here's our progress graph so far...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Komodo Dragon bites like a pussy cat

There's been quite a lot of coverage around the web this week about a new study which concludes that a Komodo Dragon's bite is weaker than that of the domestic house cat! Instead, it seems that the Komodo Dragon relies on razor-sharp teeth, powerful neck muscles, and a "space frame" skull to bring down its prey. This National Geographic News page has the story.
Using computer models, researchers from Australia's University of New South Wales analyzed a Komodo specimen from the Australian Museum in Sydney.
[...]
"The bite is really quite incredibly weak for such a big lizard—less than you'd expect from the average house cat," said Stephen Wroe, an author of the study, which was recently published in the Journal of Anatomy.

If a Komodo actually tried to crush prey with its jaws, like crocodiles do, "it would break its own skull," he said.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Thomas B Hildebrandt clarifies Northern White Rhino cloning story

Dr Thomas B Hildebrandt has added a clarification to the recent story about the Northern White Rhino cloning process, and his words appear here on the Scotsman website.
Further to your report on the bid to save rare animal species (17 April), I would like to add that this groundbreaking research concept allows the inclusion of infertile, captive northern white rhinos in a breeding programme and even permits frozen cell samples from dead individuals to be used.

I'd like to emphasise that due to the high-tech approach the only animals that will be involved are the remaining captive northern white rhinos in two zoos and not individuals living in the wild. The final goal is to create a stabile captive northern white rhino population.

The major advantage of the procedure is that only skin samples of the northern white rhinos are required. These will be joined with embryos of their southern counterpart to produce pure sperm and eggs derived from the northern white rhino.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

TV: Silverback Titus to star in PBS Nature special "The Gorilla King"

Check your local PBS listings in North America, for April 20th, 2008 sees the premier of "The Gorilla King" staring famed Mountain Gorilla Silverback "Titus". The special, narrated by award-winning actor F. Murray Abraham will also air on the BBC sometime later in 2008.

See the PBS "Gorilla King" webpage for more information and video clips.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Two more Kakapo chicks! We're at 92 Kakapos!

Two more Kakapo chicks have successfully hatched, to add to the previous five, and the newly renovated Kakapo Recovery Programme website has the exciting news. However, the site also revealed the very sad news that they recently discovered the body of Bill, who had appeared in good health. So we now stand at 92 Kakapos in the world, and the 7 chicks are being relocated to Nelson Island for further hand rearing. This Wikipedia article has the full list of names.
Today we are saying goodbye (temporarily) to the seven youngest kakapo in the world. The chicks are being relocated to Nelson where they will be hand-raised until they are ready for wild release.

Daryl is looking forward to going home to his family after being on the island looking after the chicks for over a month; taking the chicks with him means they will get the best possible care without him being away from home for so long. Though we’re sad they’re leaving it's exciting that they are one step closer to becoming big green budgies…yippeeeee!
Here's a video of some hand-feeding in progress...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Cloning of Northern White Rhino seen as last hope for species

The Telegraph has an interesting article on the possibility of using some sort of cloning technique to save the Northern White Rhino from extinction.
A novel kind of test tube reproduction is to be used to help save one of the world's rarest animals - the northern white rhino - which is on the brink of extinction with few, if any, individuals left in the wild.
[...]
Now the Institute for Breeding Rare and Endangered African Mammals in Edinburgh has approached Dr Thomas Hildebrandt at Berlin Zoo and Sir Ian Wilmut' and Dr Paul De Sousa at the University of Edinburgh to find a way to test an alternative to conventional cloning methods that could help northern white rhino repopulate the grasslands of north-east Africa.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Funnel Web Fright

The colourful scientist Dr Struan Sutherland got a mention in this frightening article about 50-year-old Catherine Brill who was bitten by a funnel web spider in her back garden. After a frantic rush to the hospital her life was saved by the anti-venom created by Dr Sutherland all those years ago.
Inside Catherine’s wrist a blizzard of toxins had started ripping at her nervous system. Her heart pumped faster, and the moisture and feeling seeped from her face.

Catherine had been bitten by a funnel web.

“It was the worst pain I’ve ever had. I’d rather have kids than face that again,” she said. “It felt like I’d been set on fire. It’s like someone’s stabbed you with a hot knife, and it just slowly crept up my arm as the venom spread.

“My tongue went numb in my mouth and a tingling went up and down my arm.”
Remember Struan's advice to Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine... "Don't get bitten in the first place!"